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Word of the day


[ fawr-too-i-tuhs ] [ fɔrˈtu ɪ təs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


happening or produced by chance; accidental.

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What is the origin of fortuitous?

Fortuitous “happening or produced by chance” ultimately comes from the Latin noun fors (stem fort-) “chance, luck.” Though chance and luck are not quite one and the same, the overlap between the two is why fortuitous evolved a second, more common sense of “lucky, fortunate.” Also derived from fors is the noun fortūna, which is the source of English fortune. The Roman goddess Fortūna was the goddess of luck as well as fate, and the Romans celebrated a festival in her honor, Fors Fortūna, annually on June 24. Note that Latin fors is not related to the English words forte “a person’s strength” and fortify “to strengthen against attack,” which come instead from Latin fortis “strong, brave” (compare Spanish fuerte). Fortuitous was first recorded in English circa 1650.

how is fortuitous used?

“My meeting you was merely a fortuitous accident …. Well, you will find this difficult to believe, but we collided. We came around a corner in one of the clinic corridors, you going full speed in one direction and me in the other, and you ran into me. Actually, into my shins,” he said. “You were much shorter in those days.”

Mia Marko, The Delicate, Passionate World of Gregory Morgan and Vivien Prevette, Book 1: The Accident, 2018

My unhappiness did leave me in a vulnerable emotional condition and laid the groundwork for my fortuitous meeting with Janet Opal Jeppson. The first meeting took place in 1956, and I didn’t even know it. Janet has a younger brother, John, who had gone to Boston University Medical School and who had been in the last biochemistry class I had helped teach. He was a science fiction fan and he had converted his sister, Janet, to the true faith. He also told her about me and what a terrific lecturer and eccentric fellow I was. It roused her curiosity.

Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir, 1979
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[ van-gahrd ] [ ˈvænˌgɑrd ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the forefront in any movement, field, activity, or the like.

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What is the origin of vanguard?

Vanguard “the forefront in any movement” comes from the same source as the recent Word of the Day avant-garde: the Middle French terms avant “to the front” and garde “guardianship.” Avant, which means “before” in modern French, comes from Latin ab ante, literally “from before.” The preposition ab “from” can be found in numerous English words that signify movement away from something, such as abduct (literally “to lead away”) and abstain (“to hold back”), while ante “before” appears in antechamber (“before a room”) and antediluvian (“before a flood”). Middle French garde is related both to English guard and ward, as the w sound in Germanic languages corresponds to g or gu in French; compare the recent Word of the Day guerdon. Vanguard was first recorded in English in the 1480s.

how is vanguard used?

MOOCs had exploded into the academic consciousness in summer 2011, when a free artificial-intelligence course offered by Stanford University in California attracted 160,000 students from around the world—23,000 of whom finished it …. Science, engineering and technology courses have been in the vanguard of the movement, but offerings in management, humanities and the arts are growing in popularity.

M. Mitchell Waldrop, “Online learning: Campus 2.0,” Nature, March 13, 2013

In the Gold Rush, Northern California attracted prospectors looking for financial independence. Now, this area is at the vanguard of a new movement—people seeking to use only the energy they produce themselves. Angry over blackouts, wildfires caused by utilities and rising electricity bills, a small but growing number of Californians in rural areas and in the suburbs of San Francisco are going off the grid.

Ivan Penn, “Frustrated With Utilities, Some Californians Are Leaving the Grid,” New York Times, March 13, 2022
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[ en-gahr-luhnd ] [ ɛnˈgɑr lənd ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used with object)

to encircle with or as with a wreath or festoon of flowers, leaves, or other material.

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What is the origin of engarland?

Engarland “to encircle with a wreath of flowers” is a compound of the prefix en- and the verb garland. As we learned from the recent Word of the Day enkindle, en- alerts English speakers that the verb it is attached to will take a direct object. The odd thing here is that garland already takes direct objects, so the prefix en- in engarland is redundant, kind of like saying “added bonus,” “free gift,” or “unexpected surprise.” Garland is a borrowing from Old French garlande “wreath,” which is of unclear origin but may derive from the word for “wire” in Frankish, a now-extinct language closely related to English and German that was very influential on French. Garland can also appear as a surname, but one of the name’s most famous bearers, Judy Garland, took it as a stage name after her family name of Gumm proved less than desirable for show business. Engarland was first recorded in English circa 1580.

how is engarland used?

He was young. And he believed not only in the efficacy of sacrifice, but also in the reward which engarlands sacrifice like flowers a grave.

Joseph Roth, The Silent Prophet, 1929

Muses, I oft invoked your holy aid, / With choicest flowers my speech to engarland so / That it, despised in true but naked show, / Might win some grace in your sweet grace arrayed…

Philip Sidney, “Sonnet 55,” Astrophil and Stella, 1591
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